President Barack Obama recently announced that he will ask Congress for the authority to merge federal agencies in the interest of streamlining government and reducing redundancies. First on the president’s proposed list of changes is a combining of six federal offices related to or in charge of trade and commerce: the Department of Commerce, the Office of the United States Trade Representative, the Export-Import Bank, the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency and the Small Business Administration.
The American Soybean Association released the following statement in response to the president’s announcement.
“While the American Soybean Association (ASA) supports initiatives to improve government efficiency and eliminate redundancy, we have strong concerns about at least one aspect of the President’s proposal, and that is with the plan to merge the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) with other trade agencies. We believe that USTR should remain an independent agency within the Executive Office of the President (EOP), focusing on trade negotiations, trade agreements and trade enforcement. By being an independent office within the Executive Office of the President, USTR serves a critical function in supporting and balancing the divergent trade interests of each sector of the U.S. economy, while consistently advocating the reduction of trade barriers. USTR’s efforts have been vital to the growth of American agricultural exports. We are concerned that folding USTR into a massive Department of Commerce or Industry structure would significantly weaken the coordination role played by USTR on trade interests across sectors, and the work on agricultural trade opportunities and barriers would be diminished. We therefore support continuing the current structure and functions of the Office of the U.S Trade Representative.”